Beers you can actually find!
So I passed by the twenty-fifth Facebook post telling me what beers I shouldn’t have missed in 2014 and the top 10 beers I should drink in 2015… I have decided to make my own list! And the reason my list will win your heart is because I’m a realist. Most of these beers on the lists previously mentioned are unknown to me. I have never heard of many on these elite lists or perhaps they are so rare I never will have the chance to imbibe unless I do a beer swap over the Internet with a guy from Sweden or Belgium. There you have it. Now, I decided to make a list of beers that I know are available in New Jersey and are frequently tapped at the nearest craft bar in your neighborhood. You won’t get reviews about how it sits on your palate or how it finishes with a touch of tobacco and pineapple. I literally have tasted over 1,000 beers in 2014.
First, the beers from Jersey
Kane Head High IPA makes the list, no doubt. It is a staple at my two craft beer bars and is, in my personal opinion, a world class IPA that can hold a stick to any of the big boys. Kane make other great beers including a Hop Lab series but Over Head is the king. I am not a lager drinker but Bolero Snort makes some fantastic ones and my favorite is Bolero Blackhorn. It is an American black lager and makes me smile.
Let’s Head North
Captain Lawrence’s Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA is by far the best IPA I had the pleasure of tasting in 2014 and I’ve tried some good ones. What stands out to me is the opaque, orange color and the mouthfeel. It’s chewy yet fresh and sweet. Otter Creek out of Vermont made some fantastic beers this year. The most notable to me was the Otter Creek Black IPA that was a favorite at our Black IPA event we had on Black Friday. It stood up to the likes of Maine Weez, Founders Dark Penance and Carton’s Epitome. Next from Massachusetts is Spencer Trappist. The first American Trappist ale and it doesn’t disappoint. Lastly from the great Northeast is Maine Lunch. If you have had it, you know. If you haven’t, please do.
Beer Manifest Destiny?
Traveling across the country we round out the American beers that made my list. Red IPA’s made a splash and there is none better then Oskar Blues G’Knight. In a can or on draft it’s heaven. A perfect blend of the sweet maltiness and magnificent hops. I am not a huge stout fan but I made an effort this past year to partake in a few and the beers that helped me were Stone Mocha Stout and Great Lakes Edmund Fitz Porter. The Stone was delicious and rich and most of my guests drank it for dessert. The Chocolate tones were beautiful. The Great Lakes ended up being exactly what it should have been, a gateway for bigger and badder stouts.
We will round out this section of the list with a Pale Ale from my favorite brewery: Elysian out of Seattle. They have 5 beers that could/should make this list including Savant & Spacecake IPA’s but I want to express the love we have shared for Elysian Loser Pale Ale. Of course I must include my #1 beer of all time… Port Brewing Wipeout IPA. I don’t know why, but it’s just plain outstanding and doesn’t get the praise that IPA’s from Ballast Point, Stone, Lagunitas and Dogfish, yet almost all beers from this amazing brewery rate in the 90’s if they’re not 100. Wipeout was rated a 99 on ratebeer.com and 91 on beeradvocate.com.
The Imported Goods
First, both of my bars have made an effort to expose people to the wild sour ale. We have had Duchesse de Borgogne, Goose Island Lolita and Nora Sour from Italy but my favorite is from a classic brewery, Rodenbach Grand Cru. I mean what would this list be without a beer from Belgium? I also would suggest drinking Saison Dupont whenever you have the chance. It literally pairs with almost every food and can be enjoyed all year long. This farmhouse ale is world class and should not be overlooked.
Ok, so I probably opened myself to the craft beer trolls and they will tell me I am nuts and grumble about all beers I have missed. I am sure they will tell me how great Pliny the Younger is, and how an Imperial Stout from a small brewery in Nebraska is their absolute fave! But I don’t care. I care about what beers I can actually find and enjoy without having to scour the depth of the Interwebz for them. Cheers to all and if all else fails, come to Morris Tap & Grill in Randolph or Paragon Tap & Table in Clark, New Jersey and decide for yourself.